After a month on the job, new Gopher Hockey assistant coach Scott Bell sat down with GopherSports.com to talk about his playing days with the Maroon & Gold, winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Doug Woog gave him his first taste of coaching hockey.
GopherSports.com: First off, you’re from Minnesota and you’re a Gopher Hockey alum, but what drew you back to the University of Minnesota as an assistant coach?
Bell: I always wanted to come back here. I bleed Maroon & Gold, and as soon as I finished my playing career I said, “Someday I want to come back and coach at the ‘U’.” That was the goal the whole time I was coaching and scouting. It’s always been my dream to come back here and be part of this program. I can’t say enough great things about the University of Minnesota – the success of the hockey program speaks for itself but you also have an incredible academic institution and in my opinion there isn’t a better place to live than the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota.
GopherSports.com: Going back to your playing days, what was your experience like as a student-athlete here at the ‘U’?
Bell: It was fantastic. I met so many great people, and I had such an awesome experience. All of the good things that happen in life after college started here. Being a part of this program really set me up for everything that followed.
When I was in the ninth grade, I saw my first game here, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this program. I had a wonderful experience in my time here. I was here for five years as a player, so I touched a lot of different classes and was able to have a lot of different friendships and relationships. I was one of the very few people that can claim to have played with both Casey Hankinson and Ben Hankinson. I saw a lot of different people come through here -- Hobey Baker Award winners and All-Americans along with a whole bunch of program guys who came to the rink and worked hard every single day. We are a family here – it doesn’t matter if you are a Hobey Baker Award winner or if you played in one game. We are all in this together, and that’s one of the things I really like about the U of M. It has transcended into adulthood and professional life. My insurance agent is Will Anderson – he played one game here, but he has just as much passion for this place as any of us. I have a lot of wonderful friendships and memories because of my decision to come to the University of Minnesota.
GopherSports.com: Did you know as soon as you were done playing that you wanted to get into coaching?
Bell: Actually, I started coaching at Coach Woog’s hockey schools in the summer time as a job. They gave me my own team and my own group of campers, and I had a great time. I kind of had a feel for it and really enjoyed it. I thought, “Hey, this isn’t a bad way to go through life and have a career.” I believe in the theory of finding something you love to do and then have someone pay you to do it. I have always been fortunate enough to do that.
GopherSports.com: Are there any things that you remember as a player that you utilize as a coach and a scout?
Bell: I have noticed that people who care and people who are passionate about what they do – that have some drive and some energy – those are the people who are successful in hockey and in life. If you have to always push somebody along or motivate them, it’s going to be a tough road for everybody. We want self-motivated people here at the University of Minnesota.
GopherSports.com: As a scout, you were part of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins. What was that experience like?
Bell: When you are in the middle of it, it’s a little bit surreal. The first one – it happened so fast and was so dramatic, you aren’t sure what to expect – it’s almost hard to describe it. And then to go back-to-back, something that had never been done in the salary cap era, it says a lot about the organization and how much effort and passion everyone put into the process. It’s something that might not happen again for a long time because it is so hard to do.
GopherSports.com: What’s one thing you saw with the Penguins that you want to instill in the team here at Minnesota?
Bell: The thing I really enjoyed about Pittsburgh was that everything was about the team and winning together, it was never about an individual. We had guys sacrificing their egos and their own personal agendas to help the team win. You look at Marc-Andre Fleury helping us get to where we had to be and then stepping aside to let Matt Murray take over – it’s inspiring and that’s something you take with you. Sidney Crosby – he doesn’t care what his stats are or who he plays with, he’s just a tremendous leader and a great example for any hockey player. Phil Kessel came in and didn’t have an ego – he just wanted to win. And then guys like Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz – there’s a reason those guys have played in the NHL for so long and have had so much success. They might not lead the team in scoring, but they have great attitudes and work ethics. There’s more to winning than just scoring – it’s important, but there are other ways to contribute and to help this program be successful.
GopherSports.com: Given your experience scouting, will you put a lot of focus on recruiting?
Bell: Recruiting is going to be a big part of my role here at the ‘U’. I know Grant did an excellent job here, and we want to continue to bring in talented classes every year. Coach Guentzel and I work hand-in-hand. His first year here as an assistant coach was my senior season, so we’ve known each other forever and have a great relationship. Our whole staff is on the same page when it comes to recruiting, but I also think it’s healthy that we have slightly different perspectives on things.
I think I have a good eye for talent. As a scout, I saw over 250 games a year for five years, and I know what to look for when I’m identifying prospects and projecting their development.
GopherSports.com: When you aren’t working, what are you doing?
Bell: When I’m not working, I’m always with my kids. Ramsey is going to be a sophomore at Edina, Gus is going to be a sixth-grader and Esmé is going to be a fourth-grader. If I’m not working, I’m doing something with them. I don’t golf (it takes too long), I don’t hunt or fish. I love hockey, and I love my kids. That’s what I care about, and that’s how I want to spend my time.
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